Questioning our Assumptions About Technology

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I had some delightful conversations with my students last week: my students decided that my class is racist, that our course outcomes are insensitive, and that technology is at the heart of both problems.

Yes, I’m overstating the problems just a bit, but the absurdity of the simplification that concluded the conversation and created the above statement helped focus the students on the issue at hand: they need to be critical of technology in classrooms.

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Bad for Badging: Achievement in Writing Courses

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There’s a badge for people who avoid badges. It was created, somewhat as a joke, by Kelvin Thompson, Associate Director of the Center for Distributed Learning at the University of Central Florida. He created the badge in response to a Twitter conversation from skeptics of the current badging fad. Count me among that group’s supporters. I’ll go a step further and say I think the badging movement is antithetical to effective writing instruction.
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The Terminology of Research

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When academics say “research”, what do we mean? Do our students know? And how do expectations for research differ from expectations in high school?

I recently discovered that terminology causes more trouble than I had thought when helping students understand what’s expected out of their work in my introduction to research courses. In this post, I work through the terminology of research to discuss how studies and experiments differ, and why we might use one over the other in different situations.

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Various Views of Outcomes

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Several interesting conversations in a department meeting today got me thinking about the role of outcomes in college courses, specifically in writing courses (first-year composition or otherwise). After teaching public high school for 10 years, getting a graduate degree in education, then teaching a progressive curriculum in a major research university with a nationally recognized composition program, I have seen a variety of approaches to course outcomes and student learning outcomes. In this post, I try to distinguish each approach and find my own position among them.

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On Assignments: Prescriptive vs. Descriptive

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The design of assignments, and the courses they are used within, involves a delicate balance between giving students new ideas to work with and allowing students to discover those ideas themselves. When we assign work, we tell students what they should be doing with their time. Our assignment sheets often tell students what their finished product should look like; our lesson plans often include the steps taken to get to that destination. After all the planning an instructor does, how much originality in the final project is left for the student?

In this post, I discuss two types of assignment design: one that focuses on process; the other, product. I would like to be able to find a productive balance between the two, but I am unsure whether any generalizable rules can apply to assignment design.

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On Vocabulary: “Blended Learning” vs. “Hybrid Pedagogy”

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I handed a draft of my dissertation prospectus to a new member of our writing and rhetoric faculty, and she noticed that I had the annoying habit of switching between the words blended and hybrid when describing courses that happen online some of the time and in person some of the time. I really threw her for a loop when I referred to the courses as mixed-mode, the term used by my institution’s registration system. She had no idea what I meant. By asking me to choose one word over the other, and to justify which word I choose to use, she has helped me understand a rather significant distinction in the literature that I don't believe has really been addressed.

In this post, I explore the distinction in terminology and argue that a trend not explicitly acknowledged nevertheless defines disciplinary perspectives on online learning.

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